SOUTH SUDAN

An airlift of up to 15,000 ethnic South Sudanese began on Monday from Khartoum, an AFP correspondent said.The first plane chartered by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) took off at 0615 GMT carrying around 160 South Sudanese, some of whom have spent their entire lives in the north. They are among a group of 12,000-15,000 South Sudanese who have been waiting for transport South from the Kosti way-station 300 kilometres (190 miles) from Khartoum.

Kosti became home to the biggest single concentration of South Sudanese awaiting transport South, with many living in makeshift shelters or barn-like buildings for up to a year. The governor of the Kosti area declared the migrants a security threat and initially gave them a May 5 deadline to leave, sparking concern from the United Nations and the IOM which has already helped thousands of South Sudanese to head South.

Officials extended the deadline to May 20 but then told the IOM to disregard the time limit after plans for the airlift were devised. “It is my first time to the South. I was born here,” Cecilia Peter, 27, said through a translator as she lined up for a boarding pass with her five tiny children. Peter said the family had spent 13 months in Kosti, after losing her job as a teacher.

All ethnic Southerners were dismissed from Sudan’s civil service ahead of South Sudan’s independence last July under a peace deal that ended 22 years of civil war which killed two million people and drove many more to the north. The South Sudanese in Kosti are among about 350,000 ethnic Southerners who the South Sudanese embassy estimates remain in the north after an April 8 deadline for them to either formalise their status or leave Sudan.

Source : AFP

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